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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Reconciliation                347

to symbolise the unknown is certain to involve inconsistencies
and absurdities of all kinds and it is childish to complain
of their existence unless one is prepared to advocate the
stifling of all religious sentiment, and this is like trying to
stifle hunger or thirst. To be at all is to be religious more or
less. There never was any man who did not feel that behind
this world and above it and about it there is an unseen world
greater and more incomprehensible than anything he can
conceive, and this feeling, so profound and so universal,
needs expression. If expressed it can only be so by the help
of inconsistencies and errors. These, then, are not to be
ordered impatiently out of court; they have grown up as
the best guesses at truth that could be made at any given time,
but they must become more or less obsolete as our knowledge
of truth is enlarged. Things become known which were
formerly unknown and, though this brings us no nearer to
ultimate universal truth, yet it shows us that many of our
guesses were wrong. Everything that catches on to realism
and naturalism as much as Christianity does must be affected
by any profound modification in our views of realism and
naturalism.

God and Convenience

I do not know or care whether the expression " God " has
scientific accuracy or no, nor yet whether it has theological
value; I know nothing either of one or the other, beyond
looking upon the recognised exponents both of science and
theology with equal distrust; but for convenience, I am
sure that there is nothing like it—I mean for convenience of
getting quickly at the right or wrong of a matter. While you
are fumbling away with your political economy or your
biblical precepts to know whether you shall let old Mrs. So-
and-so have 5/- or no, another, who has just asked himself
which would be most well-pleasing in the sight of God, will be
told in a moment that he should give her—or not give her—
the 5/-. As a general rule she had better have the 5/- at once,
but sometimes we must give God to understand that, though
we should be very glad to do what he would have of us if we
reasonably could, yet the present is one of those occasions
on which we must decline to do so.